As soon as primary teeth start coming in, tooth decay becomes a potential risk for your child. At this early stage, regular dental hygiene is fundamental in the prevention of early childhood tooth decay.
During teething, when you and your baby are both dealing with all the stress and discomfort that goes along with this period on your baby's life, tooth decay might not be on mind.
However, it's definitely something that should be taken into consideration. During your baby's first year, many of the nutrients he or she consumes, from formula and breast milk, to many of the first solid food your introduce after the 6 month mark,contain sugar.
For the past 30 years or so, the accepted notion has been that breastfeeding, and particularly prolonged breastfeeding, is especially bad for babies’ oral health.
Recent scientific studies, however, have suggested that breastfeeding is in fact only one element that can contribute to early childhood tooth decay.
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay
Repeated, prolonged exposure to sugary drinks and food is also a factor that can contribute to early childhood tooth decay. Bottles can be particularly problematic when it comes to this issue, since babies often won’t go to sleep without a bottle. If the bottle is filled with formula or juice, prolonged exposure can become an issue.
To lower your baby’s chances of tooth decay,
- Instead of juice or milk, fill the bottle with water
- Dilute the juice or milk with water, to get your baby used to the change gradually
- Substitute the bottle for a favorite toy or clean pacifier
- Be comforting but firm; change is never easy, but your baby will get used to it
Sippy cups can also cause tooth decay, just like bottles can. They’re a great tool for getting your child accustomed to drinking from a cup rather than a bottle, but sippy cups should be used moderately, as a transition tool only. It's best to avoid extended periods of use. Be sure to fill the sippy cup with water if your child takes it to bed.
Caring for Your Baby’s Teeth
Before primary teeth emerge:
With a clean, damp cloth placed over your index finger, carefully wipe your baby’s gums after each meal. Clean the front, back and flat surfaces.
After primary teeth begin erupting:
Once your baby has his or her first tooth, you can start cleaning it, and once two teeth have emerged next to each other, you can start flossing!